WHO KILLED KYOTO?
Ross Gelbspan ["Bush's Global Warmers," April 9] quotes my colleague Tom Wigley as saying that my "statements on [climate models] are a catalog of misrepresentation and misinterpretation." The University of Virginia's promotions committee, the dean of the faculty and the provost must think otherwise!
More to the point, however, is that it was Tom's own calculation that killed Kyoto. In 1998 he demonstrated that if all signatory nations complied completely with the protocol, the reduction in realized warming by the year 2050 would be 0.07 degrees C (and 0.14 degrees C by 2100). The cost runs around 2 percent of GDP per year, according to the Energy Information Administration (under the Clinton Administration). That figure assumes the strictures on carbon sequestration and emissions trading that the European Union held us to at The Hague this past November.
The mathematics works out rather simply: If one assumes the UN's mean expectation of 2.5 degrees warming in the next hundred years (a number that is demonstrably a bit too high), Kyoto prevents one twentieth of it (an amount that will never even be measurable with precision), at an enormous annual cost. That's why Bush quit Kyoto. It has nothing to do with an industry conspiracy, which you seem so fond of, and everything to do with Tom Wigley's calculation.
PATRICK J. MICHAELS
Senior fellow, Cato Institute
As his coal-industry funders have long appreciated, Pat Michaels has a special talent for generating much confusion with very few words. Michaels undermines and misstates the projections of twenty-first century warming by the more than 2,000 scientists who compose the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who project the world will warm from 2.5 to 10 degrees in this century.
Assuming the mantle of economist, Michaels declares the cost of complying with the Kyoto Protocol to be "enormous." In so doing, he ignores the far more professional estimates of the insurance industry. Munich Re-Insurance estimates the coming costs of climate impacts will amount to $300 billion a year in the next several decades. The largest insurer in Britain, CGNU, says that, unchecked, climate change could bankrupt the global economy by 2065.
Finally, in assuming to speak for the White House, Michaels asserts that Bush withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol because its costs are too high for its low goals. In fact, Bush said he withdrew from the protocol because it "unfairly" exempts developing countries from the first round of carbon cuts--and because the "science is unsettled."
If, as Michaels suggests, Bush were to take his guidance from such pre-eminent scientists as Dr. Tom M. L. Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the United States would be leading the world's efforts to curb global warming--instead of fashioning energy policies designed to plunge us even deeper into a climate hell.
THE WHO (PLAYS A MEAN PINBALL)
Robert James Parsons is incorrect in his "The Balkan DU Cover-Up" [April 9] on a number of counts. He claims that the UN system is under pressure "to keep the lid on DU contamination investigations." Concerned about possible public health consequences of the use of DU munitions and aware of concerns voiced by governments and the public, the World Health Organization has, on the contrary, undertaken a number of activities related to this issue. These include a field mission to Kosovo, a meeting with an Iraqi delegation of scientists on further cooperation and future action, publication of a fact sheet on DU, an appeal to donors to fund WHO work on DU and health in affected countries and a forthcoming monograph on DU.
The WHO monograph on DU was never expected to be released in December 1999. A document of some 200 pages, encompassing a review of a large amount of the best available scientific literature on uranium and DU, this work was undertaken only in autumn 1999. Studies of this scope take more than a few months to complete.
The four-page WHO fact sheet on DU (www.who.int/inf-fs/en/fact257.html) is consistent with all m ajor reviews recently conducted on the possible health effects of exposure to DU and is not contradictory. WHO intended to release its fact sheet together with its monograph on DU, but because of intense public concern about DU early this year, the fact sheet was issued earlier than planned. The fact sheet was never "quietly canceled."
The 1959 agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) does not affect the impartial and independent exercise by WHO of its statutory responsibilities, nor does it place WHO in a situation of subordination to IAEA. The above-mentioned DU-related activities were all undertaken independently by WHO, without any approval or influence whatsoever by the IAEA.
Parsons writes that "WHO radiation safety standards [are] designed for measuring a brief 'one event' source of radiation." In reality, WHO radiation safety standards cover both short- and long-term effects. WHO may conduct a field investigation only if the government authorities request it and if funding is provided by donors. Two such requests were made in January 2001; WHO replied positively and took action rapidly.
DR. RICHARD HELMER
World Health Organization
If WHO was "concerned about possible public health consequences of the use of DU munitions," it certainly has been discreet about making that concern known. The field mission and meetings with the Iraqi delegation of scientists, etc. have all taken place since mid-January, whereas the alarm bells concerning Kosovo were first sounded by Bakary Kante's preliminary assessment in May 1999. The problem in Iraq was brought before the world's public long before that, largely by the Gulf War veterans.
Further, once the Iraqi government had finally made up its mind officially to seek help from WHO (in November 1999), WHO did not respond to Iraq's letter until the end of July 2000. WHO headquarters in Geneva claims that it was misplaced at the Middle East Regional Office. Such a politically hot document, received after years of waiting and conjecture as to just what the Iraqis were intending to do about the DU problem, could never have been simply mislaid without knowledge and approval from WHO's highest echelons.
The WHO monograph is not a monograph at all, as acknowledged by Ann Kern, WHO's executive director for sustainable development and healthy environments, but a review of some of the available literature on the chemical and radiological toxicity of uranium, obviously selected for its lack of treatment of the subject of nonsoluable, ceramic-like DU particles--the source of the threat to health and the environment.
The fact sheet was, indeed, not canceled. But an earlier one was. WHO did it quietly, with the result that I, as well as a Dutch journalist, Saskia Jansens, a longtime veteran of DU inquiry, kept having to ask about its progress until Gregory Hartl, WHO's principal spokesman, finally admitted that it would never see the light of day. We did not go quietly upon hearing the news in August 1999, barely two months after the fact sheet had been announced as in the works. The result was an announcement that WHO was undertaking a "generic" study of DU, to be focused exclusively on its chemical toxicity as a heavy metal and thus entrusted to the direction of Barry Smith, a geologist. The study has been rechristened a "monograph."
Dr Michael Repacholi, WHO coordinator for occupation and environmental health, sustainable development and healthy environments, announced at a January press conference at UN headquarters here in Geneva that the scope of the generic study had been extended to include radiological toxicity and also stated that in addition to a review of literature, there would be actual testing of people, such as urine analysis. He then claimed, in an April 26 press conference on release of the "monograph," that it has always included radiotoxicity and chemiotoxicity, but he admits that it is only a review of literature with no clinical or field studies ever intended.
The four-page WHO fact sheet is at stark variance with the draft of the canceled one. The latter dealt with DU as a source of internal, constant radiation, DU in the form of ceramic-like, inhalable particles that have been let loose on the planet by the thousands of billions where DU munitions have burned on contact with their target. The later fact sheet deals with DU as natural uranium, soluble in the human body, hence easily, often quickly, eliminated.
The 1959 agreement with the IAEA, was, according to my sources, the reason the initial fact sheet was canceled as well as the reason the generic study had to be confined to DU's chemical toxicity until the public outcry, particularly in Europe, made it necessary to deal with the radiation side. Not surprisingly, that radiation side is dismissed by the "monograph" as of negligible importance. Helmer's statement that "WHO radiation safety standards cover both short- and long-term effects" does not address the question of constant, long-term radiation from an internal source. The long-term effects of "one event" radiation are still effects from "one event" radiation, like a bomb blast, and not applicable to the radiation generated by the ceramic-like particles lodged for years in lung tissue.
As for the statement that WHO may conduct a field investigation only if government authorities request it, one may point out that regardless of the huge and increasing mountain of evidence about Iraq, the WHO never requested an invitation to investigate, as it could have done.
The just-released "monograph" is one more stone in the huge wall of denial about the dangers of radiation that WHO and the UN are party to. Since the "monograph" and a recent UN Environment Program report are supposed to be the last word on the subject for a long time, we still have a long way to go before anything serious is done about what WHO perceived as a major threat to the human species back in the 1950s before the IAEA agreement silenced WHO on the subject of radiation and public health.
ROBERT JAMES PARSONS